Regional Bioassessment Monitoring Program


Regional Monitoring of Southern California’s Coastal Watersheds (Monitoring Design Workplan)


The goal of this project is to develop a recommended stormwater monitoring infrastructure in order to increase comparability among programs throughout southern California.  This study is partially funded by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). A technical working group has been formed to guide the study and meets on a monthly basis.  The working group includes the stormwater agencies and regulators on the SMC, the SWRCB, and Heal the Bay (an environmental advocacy group).

The SMC completed a four-step goal:

  • Defined five monitoring questions:
    • Are conditions in receiving waters protective of beneficial uses?
      • What are the mechanism(s) causing receiving water problems?
    • What is the extent and magnitude of the receiving water problems?
    • What is the relative urban runoff (both storm and non-storm, wet and dry) contribution to the receiving water problem(s)?
    • What are the sources of the urban runoff contribution to receiving water problems?
    • Are conditions in receiving waters getting better or worse?
  • Completed an inventory to assess what monitoring programs are currently doing and to determine how well they are answering the monitoring questions
  • Created a guidance document on the standardized design
    • The group has developed a philosophy and framework for building the standardized program. The first philosophy is that the monitoring should focus on answering the five. The second philosophy is that the monitoring should be proportional to the amount of impact. This framework includes:
      • Core monitoring to address ongoing, site-specific needs. This monitoring design would be useful for assessing trends;
      • Regional monitoring to address large spatial scales at infrequent intervals. This monitoring would be useful to put localized site-specific results into context of the larger ecosystem
      • Special studies to address directed needs or to answer specific questions. This monitoring would be useful to address unique issues
  • The QA laboratory intercalibration study was completed utilizing more than 11 laboratories throughout southern California. The study was conducted to assess interlaboratory variability and enhance comparability. The intercalibration and resulting guidelines/protocols were documented in a Laboratory Guidance Manual. More subsequent study regarding to this exercises are undergoing.


The working group delivered three documents to the SMC and SWRCB:

  • Monitoring Design Document – provided the approach, rationale, and methodology for developing the model monitoring program, which is structured around five fundamental management questions.
  • Laboratory Manual – uses a performance-based quality assurance approach for setting accuracy, precision, and sensitivity goals for a common list of constituents.
  • Information Management Manual – uses standardized data transfer formats (SDTF) for agencies to share information.


The technical working group provided many useful tools for agencies to use in implementing the new designs at the local level.  Two of the tools are available as standalone products including:

  • Standardized Data Transfer Format (SDTF) compliant database
  • Power analysis tool for determining sampling frequency to detect trends.


The stormwater model monitoring program has already begun to be implemented in southern California.  Permittees can use the concepts in their negotiations for NPDES permit renewals, and regulatory agencies have begun inserting the tools into permit monitoring and reporting programs.